Photo/Illutration Tetsuo Saito, the infrastructure minister, speaks at a Jan. 21 news conference. (Shinya Matsumoto)

Ten high-ranking infrastructure ministry bureaucrats received penalties and other disciplinary measures for the years of inflated construction contract figures used in key economic statistics.

Infrastructure minister Tetsuo Saito, his two senior vice ministers and three parliamentary secretaries will voluntarily return four months of pay.

“As the head of this ministry, I keenly feel my responsibility,” Saito said at a news conference on Jan. 21. “The top political appointees in the ministry decided to voluntarily return our monthly salary as a way of clarifying our responsibility.

“I would like to once again express my apologies to the public for the extremely regrettable practice of handling statistics in an inappropriate manner for many years.”

Kunihiro Yamada, the administrative vice minister, and Masaru Ishida, a vice minister, were issued warnings for their failure to properly oversee those actually handling the statistics.

The other eight bureaucrats were directly in charge of the section handling the construction contract statistics or were higher-ranking officials in charge of all statistical gathering in the ministry either in 2013, when the “double counting” of construction contracts first began, or subsequently when the problem was brought to light but nothing was done about it.

One received a warning, and seven were handed more severe disciplinary measures, including pay cuts.

One official has already retired and will be asked to voluntarily return an amount equivalent to a 10 percent pay cut over three months. The retiree had been the top official handling the statistic and was aware in 2019 about the double counting, but did nothing about it.

A third-party investigative committee submitted its report to Saito on Jan. 14. The report found various ministry officials had tried to downplay the importance of the rewriting of the construction contract statistics or cover up the practice.

Yasushi Kaneko, the internal affairs minister, said at his Jan. 21 news conference that his ministry, which oversees all statistics gathered by central government ministries, would conduct a review of fundamental statistics, including the construction contract figures.